Former Port of Astoria director admits a felony charge
By CASSANDRA PROFITA
The Daily Astorian
Former Port of Astoria director Peter Gearin pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act Thursday in the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in Portland.
Gearin, who was fired from the Port in 2007, appeared in court and admitted to knowingly violating the terms of a federal dredging permit in March 2005, when he was the Port’s executive director. He was to be booked in the U.S. Marshal’s Office and conditionally released Thursday.
Gearin declined to comment on the case.
Judge Ancer L. Haggerty set Gearin’s sentencing hearing for 9:30 a.m. May 8.
Gearin’s charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and fines between $5,000 and $50,000.
Haggerty told Gearin that as a felon he will not be able to possess firearms and some other weapons.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Evans presented the facts of the case earlier at the plea hearing.
Because the Columbia River bottom to be dredged had tested positive for contaminants, the Port’s permit required that the dredge spoils be stored on land. The Port was required to allow that material to settle and to have it tested for contaminants before releasing it back into the river.
“The defendant was fully aware of those conditions,” said Evans. “On March 10, 2005, the defendant knowingly allowed water in the settling pond on Pier 3 to flow back into the Columbia River in violation of permit conditions.”
The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a two-year criminal investigation into Gearin’s role in the circumstances of the Port of Astoria’s 2005 dredging violation, Evans said.
Gearin had signed a plea agreement in April 2008, but the agreement had been sealed until Thursday morning.
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Astoria’s Peter Gearin saga featured a series of bad decisions